How is Jeet Kune Do Like Music?

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It seems like an odd comparison at first glance – Jeet Kune Do and music? Bruce Lee’s art of self-defense is specifically designed for combat efficiency and street fighting. How is this anything like music.

Here at Ekata Training Center in Valencia, CA I’m often met with quizzical looks when we conclude a tour and show potential parents and students our music room. Why is a room filled with musical instruments in a martial arts school/gym?

My teacher, Sifu Jerry Poteet told me that Bruce Lee said Jeet Kune Do is the ultimate form of expression. Our body is our paintbrush. We spontaneously create and each movement is a form of personal expression – much like dance.

If it were ever necessary for a person to defend themselves and they had no knowledge of self-defense, their movements would be inefficient, clumsy – flailing about and would only be successful based on pure instinct and on accident.

It’s much the same if I purchase a musical instrument and start to bang on it, hoping to produce music. If I have no frame of reference, no training – I may get lucky and start figuring it out along the way – but I have no knowledge of the language of music. I don’t know notes, positioning of the body with the instrument, I don’t know chords and how the notes fit in with the chords. In other words, I’m lost – and it’s only a happy accident if I can make music.

In music, I have to discipline myself to learn proper positioning, to learn notes and chords. I have to spend hours practicing scales and learning theory. That isn’t to say that one can’t be expressive without theory. However, it is very unlikely that one can be spontaneously expressive without a great deal of practice.

The same holds true of physical expression. Sifu Jerry used to say that practicing the basics of JKD is like sharpening your tools. Sifu Fran, Sifu Jerry’s wife says that music is a great deal like JKD. In music, we have a piece of music to play – the notes are the same on that sheet regardless. However, each person’s interpretation of that music will be entirely different. They will bring their own emotion, nuances and subtleties to each note, to each phrase. This is the same with Jeet Kune Do.

Bruce Lee analyzed movement. He was obsessed with efficiency. How can you develop the most power, with the least amount of telegraphic motion? In doing so, he studied dozens of martial arts in order to develop a training protocol that could be individualized, yet could be practiced by students of every gender and body type. It’s just like learning a piece of music. Learn the structure, work within the structure, then break free of the structure.

After developing our personal attributes and putting tools in the tool box, we they are ready to creatively express with those tools. If we now have to defend ourselves – we will now move with efficiency and effectiveness.

This is why we offer all forms of expression at Ekata Training Center – art , dance, theater, music. It’s because we have to free ourselves from the known (to borrow a quote from Jiddu Krishnamurti). This is how we evolve as humans. We can learn from others and take advantage of the work that has been done before us – but ultimately our interpretation of what we learn is what makes us unique and a living, blossoming human being with infinite potential for growth.

You can watch the full video here! :

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